Calculating Earth's Tilt on the Winter Solstice

This year, the winter solstice will fall on December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere. The winter solstice is the time when the sun rises to its lowest point at noon, and it falls on the day during which there is the shortest period of daylight. For this reason, the winter solstice is also often known as "the shortest day of the year." From the winter solstice until the summer solstice, the period of daylight on each day will continue to get longer.

The solstices are special days also because they are easy times to calculate the angle of the tilt of the Earth's axis (known as the axial tilt).The fact that the Earth spins along a tilted axis is the reason why there are solstices (and why there are seasons!). This winter solstice, take the time to head outside with a measuring stick and some graph paper and follow the instructions for calculating Earth's Tilt at Science Update to investigate the Earth's axial tilt yourself. Winter break is a great time to do some at-home learning, and since there are many misconceptions surrounding why the seasons exist, this activity is a great way to engage kids in scientific inquiry of an important topic.

To explore this topic further, take a look at the Tilted Earth Science Update and the Measuring Shadows lesson. Be sure to check out our Four Seasons lesson and our Earth Science Week collection for more materials on teaching the seasons too.

Image Credit: By Silver Spoon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.


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